Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri
|Texas rat snake|
|Subspecies:||E. o. lindheimeri|
|Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri
(Baird & Girard, 1853)
The Texas rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri) is a subspecies of rat snake, a nonvenomous colubrid found in the United States, primarily within the state of Texas, but its range extends into Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. It intergrades with other subspecies of Elaphe obsoleta, so exact range boundaries are impossible to distinguish. The epithet lindheimeri is to honor the German-American naturalist Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer, who collected the first specimen in New Braunfels, Texas.
The Texas rat snake is a fairly large snake, capable of attaining lengths past six feet. They vary greatly in color and patterning throughout their range, but they are typically yellow or tan in color, with brown to olive-green, irregular blotching from head to tail. Specimens from the southern area of their range tend to have more yellow, while those from the northern range tend to be darker. One way to distinguish them from other rat snakes is they are the only ones with a solid grey head. Some specimens have red or orange speckling. The belly is typically a solid gray or white in color. The several naturally occurring color variations include albinos, high orange or hypomelanistic, and a few specimens which display leucism which have become regularly captive-bred and are popular in the pet trade.
The Texas rat snake has a voracious appetite, consuming large numbers of rodents and birds, and sometimes lizards and frogs which they subdue with constriction. They are generalists, found in a wide range of habitats from swamps, to forests to grasslands, even in urban areas. They are agile climbers, able to reach bird nests with relative ease. They are often found around farmland, and will sometimes consume fledgeling chickens and eggs, which leads them to be erroneously called the chicken snake. They are known for their attitude, and will typically bite if handled, though their bite is harmless.
Many sources continue to refer to the Texas rat snake by its scientific name, Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri, though all North American rat snake species were suggested for reclassification to the genus Pantherophis. A further revision of Pantherophis obsoletus has recommended the elimination of the various subspecies entirely, considering them all to be merely locality variations. However, the ICZN has rejected the renaming, and thus Elaphe remains the genus name.